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Badlands views, such as this image from 2015, would be available from stretches of road that the Oglala Sioux Tribe is seeking to have designated as the Crazy Horse Scenic Byway.

The Pennington County Commission unanimously approved a letter of support Tuesday for an effort by the Oglala Sioux Tribe to designate 300 miles of highway as the Crazy Horse Scenic Byway.

Dave Kelly, director of transportation for the tribe, told commissioners during a regularly scheduled meeting at the county Administration Building that a scenic byway designation could make the tribe eligible for more federal funding to maintain its roads. He also said the byway could help bring more visitors to the tribe’s Pine Ridge Reservation.

“I see a lot of economic opportunity here for the tribe,” Kelly said.

Not all of the byway would be on the reservation. From its western to eastern end points, a drive on the byway would start at Crazy Horse Memorial, pass east through the Black Hills on roads including state Highway 244 and U.S. Highway 16A; skirt the Badlands via state Highway 40; make a loop on the reservation via BIA highways 41 and 27 through communities including Oglala, Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, and Sharps Corner; and head east on BIA 2 to Kyle and Wanblee before following state Highway 73 to Kadoka, with branches to Yellow Bear Canyon and Cactus Flat along the way.

The tribe is seeking the designation from the state Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byways Program. Routes that display scenic, cultural, geologic, wildlife habitat or other aesthetic features are eligible. Applications must be submitted with support from cities and counties along the route, so Kelly said he needs approval from approximately 10 local government boards.

The state’s application form for scenic byways says a designation allows the byway to be featured in the promotions of the state Department of Tourism and may allow the route to be featured in U.S. Forest Service promotions.

The final decision to approve or deny the designation is made by the state Transportation Commission, which is a citizen panel appointed by the governor.

Tonya Huber, an engineer with the local firm KLJ, said the tribe would be responsible for special signage along the byway within the reservation. An agreement between state government and the tribe would be needed for signage outside the reservation.

There are six existing state-designated scenic byways in South Dakota: the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway near Spearfish, the Skyline Drive Scenic Byway in Rapid City, the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway in and near Custer State Park, the Wildlife Loop Scenic Byway in Custer State Park, and the Native American Scenic Byway consisting of highways along the Missouri River from the state's northern to southern borders.

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Contact Seth Tupper at seth.tupper@rapidcityjournal.com

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